Esther Rosenfield’s review published on Letterboxd:
probably the most remarkable thing about this film is that you really never get used to the fact that he looks like that. even in the late moments of this 137 minute film i was still jolted by occasional cuts to ben platt's puffy, doughy visage, newly horrified by his inland empire-esque facial contortions and body language that has been seen in cinema only once before: in f.w. murnau's expressionist classic nosferatu. his exaggerated hunch, hysterically twitchy hands, and latex-smooth prosthetics serve only to make platt, who was 26 years old when the film was shot, look like a man in his mid-40s. his casting surely ranks among the most misguided, disastrous decisions in cinema history, right around "john landis telling vic morrow and the kids to stand there".
what makes dear evan hansen a true marvel, though, is how perfectly platt's presence works to amplify the horror of a story so sociopathic that only people on broadway could find it endearing and uplifting. the main character's self-serving deception, as monstrous as it is, may have come across like the actions of an awkward young man who hasn't learned how to interact with people, forced into a particular role by a grieving family that he is too guilt-stricken to escape from, caught up in a whirlwind of newfound attention and compassion that's intoxicating for someone whose mental illness has always kept him at a remove from other people. unfortunately, it's hard to feel any of these things when the person in question looks like an undercover cop. it's impossible to grant evan the benefit of youth when he so clearly is not youthful. and it makes songs like "if i could tell her", where evan tells the late connor's sister zoe all of the little things about her he's picked up on due to his unrequited crush under the pretense that the observations come from her dead brother, feel like an ode to illegal age-gaps.
platt's defense of his casting (which elided the fact that the film's producer is his father) was that the film wouldn't have gotten made without his involvement, because audiences associated him so strongly with the character that they couldn't imagine anyone else in the role. not only was it a bizarre sideswipe at the five (five!) actors who played the character on broadway and in the touring company after platt moved on (one of whom, i have to stress, is platt's current boyfriend) but it's also plainly his egomania eclipsing reality. is there a single person whose appreciation of dear evan hansen is so innately tied to ben platt's performance that they could not accept another actor in the role under any circumstances? is there anyone, outside of a cloistered broadway fandom, who sees the title of this movie and thinks "oh, of course, that famous ben platt role!" and it bears repeating: platt is terrible here. the only reason to cast him would be the tradeoff of the quality of his work, and his work is atrocious.
dear evan hansen is defiantly terrible, a story tackling mental health for people who make viral twitter posts like "today i learned that eating yogurt is a trauma response," a musical whose every number sounds like it's straight from a teen worship service at our lady of perpetual grooming, a movie that must have been made and could only be enjoyed by budding serial killers. don't mistake this review for an endorsement, don't trick yourself into thinking this movie must be seen to be believed. all you really need to look at is a single image of ben platt's horrible face to get the full experience, and imagine it pulling and twisting and contorting into a parade of death masks, an endless montage of grotesquerie, consuming itself and its viewer from within and without, until nothing is left of either.